KEY POINTS

  • 2020 SO will be passing by on Dec. 1
  • The NEA is about 32 feet and will zip near us at 5:04 a.m. EDT
  • 2020 SO has not been included in the ESA Risk List

An asteroid is heading toward Earth, and scientists say it will get close -- really close.

Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) 2020 SO is set to zoom by Earth on Dec. 1 at 5:04 a.m. EDT. According to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, this NEA has a diameter of about 32 feet (10 meters). An asteroid this size is about one-and-one-fifth times as long as a London bus. Or, if you live in California, 2020 SO is predicted to be two-thirds as tall as the big Hollywood sign overlooking L.A.

What's especially noteworthy is how  close 2020 SO will eventually be from Earth.  According to the CNEOS' Close Approach Data Table, its closest approach to our planet's surface will only be 31,000 miles away (49,000 km). Based on justintools.com's calculations, the distance of the moon from Earth is 238,000 miles (384,000 km). So, with these numbers, 2020 SO will be 87% closer to Earth than the moon s is to our planet!

Luckily, this NEA, which was first observed on Aug. 19, 2020, is no where to be seen on the European Space Agency Risk List. It is, however, getting some pretty close observation.

2020 SO is considered an Apollo asteroid due to its Earth-crossing orbit. Asteroids like this have orbits similar to Earth's, and both orbits would intersect each other at a certain point, making close approaches to Earth more likely.

Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that enter Earth's neighborhood due to the nudging of other nearby planets' gravitational attraction. NEOs are composed mostly of water ice with dust particles. Those which formed originally in the cold outer planetary system are usually classified as comets, while those formed in the warmer inner solar system are called asteroids. Both offer a glimpse of the past due to their relatively unchanged composition.